In the do or die electoral battle, the internet has come to occupy a significant space along with the heat and dust of countryside. If you ask the two main political parties in the fray, they will say that nothing can be left to chance.
Political parties are addressing the technology-savvy voters through their websites, but it is to be seen if hits would translate into votes?
The Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) view websites differently.
It is a medium for information for the BJP, but for the Congress it is part of campaigning where all constituencies irrespective of their size need to be tapped.
The perception that internet is elitist has also been changed. This perhaps explains why parties like the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, which are perceived to be representing the poor and uneducated, have official websites.
“A political website is both a medium of information and publicity,” says Vishvjit P Singh, who heads the computer cell of Congress. “It depends on what content you put on the website. Our site has all the publicity material, posters and speeches of party president.”
BJP’s Nalin Kohli cites the limiting nature of internet connectivity as the reason for not using website for active campaigning. According to him, the political websites are like information resource centres used either by those who are researching or just surfing the net. Besides, websites may not be a direct contact tool since it transmits information from one computer to the other.
BJP claims to be the first political party to have launched a website some eight years back. Mr Kohli says that his website records one lakh hits everyday on an average. The Congress, which launched its site on March 17, 2004 and its Hindi version last week, claims that its site receives about 30,000-40,000 hits every day. “It varies dramatically. Fewer hits are recorded on days when there is a cricket match,” says Mr Singh.
What is the profile of people who visit these sites? Technology cannot help political parties here. There is no way that they can find out who are visiting these sites. “The only thing we come to know is that whether these visitors are in India or abroad. Our party’s site gets significant number of hits from abroad,” says Mr Kohli.
Feedback through internet is also used for forming party opinion and changing strategies, he says while adding that they are in the process of redesigning